Sunday, September 09, 2007

The "Anbar Model"

Over Labor Day weekend, Bush paid a “…[H]ighly symbolic visit to the vast, sparsely populated and Sunni-dominated Anbar province in western Iraq….He held out the tantalizing promise that some U.S. troops may soon be headed home if the military successes in Anbar can be echoed in violence-racked Baghdad,” as reported in The Globe and Mail on September 4 in Bush visits Iraq to buttress claims of progress.

The mainstream media is repeating this story of success in Anbar, notably in The New York Times, with an op-ed by Roger Cohen on September 6, The Least Bad Choice, “Exit timing and U.S. election maneuvering stand at the center of this month’s Iraq drama… One [report], from the Government Accountability Office, has already given the Bush-Petraeus surge a failing grade: a feckless Iraqi government, unshared oil money, untamed militias and undiminished violence.

Not fair, Petraeus and Bush will argue, using the new catchphrase ‘bottom-up progress’ to highlight headway in Sunni-dominated provinces like Anbar through cash-cemented alliances with local sheiks who have been persuaded to turn again to Al Qaeda.” [bolding mine]

On September 9, The New York Times published a lengthy article, Troop Buildup, Yielding Slight Gains, Fails to Meet U.S. Goals. “ In recent weeks, President Bush and his commanders have shifted their emphasis to new alliances with tribal leaders that have improved security in Diyala Province, the Sunni Triangle and other Sunni areas, most notably Anbar Province.” [bolding mine]

Today the Seattle Times reported more objectively in Buildup fails to mend political divisions in Iraq: ‘With the national government in deadlock, U.S. officials have begun encouraging reconciliation at the local level. The model is Anbar, the vast Sunni province where tribal sheiks turned against al-Qaida in Iraq and sought cooperation with the Americans….Still, Anbar is not secure, accounting for 18 percent of the U.S. deaths in Iraq so far this year — making it the second deadliest province after Baghdad. Four Marines were killed in Anbar on Thursday…."

Nonetheless, U.S. officials now speak of exporting the "Anbar model" elsewhere, including the Shiite heartland of the south, where militias hold sway." [bolding mine]

“Not so fast,” says Juan Cole of Informed Comment in his September 4th post, On How al-Anbar isnt' that Safe and on How it's "Calm" is Artificially Produced. Cole asks, “Is al-Anbar Province really paradise, as Bush suggested?” He answers this question with a series of answers, including: ”Al-Anbar residents killed 20 US troops in July. The total US fatalities in July were 79 according to, and some of those were presumably from accidents, etc. So al-Anbar, despite being reduced to the stone age, managed to kill a fourth or more of all US troops killed in combat in July. Al-Anbar is roughly 1/24 of Iraq by population. So it killed six times more US troops than we would have expected based on its proportion of the Iraqi population. …

”In mid-July, There were about 100 violent attacks in a single week in al-Anbar. That's a bright spot. That's progress. Since the year before, there were 400 violent attacks in that same period.Well, yes, that's a relative improvement. But a hundred violent attacks in a week? That's being touted as good news to be ecstatic over? There were probably on the order of 1100 attacks that week in all of Iraq. So al-Anbar generated nearly one-tenth of all attacks. But it is only 1/24 of Iraq by population, so it is more than twice as dangerous with regard to the number of attacks than you would expect from its small population.”

I hope you’ll take time to read Cole’s entire post before General Petraeus gives us his progress report this Tuesday.

(map of Iraq with Anbar Province in yellow: - double-click on the map to enlarge)

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